It’s Facebook wot wins votes

The Facebook fake news fuss is a distraction compared with the company’s bigger impact on politics: its ability to micro-target advertising based on its detailed knowledge of its users. As I wrote earlier this month for The Register, Facebook has helped the Conservatives to win the 2015 general election, pro-Brexit campaigners to win the referendum and Donald Trump the US presidency.

Facebook uses the Tory victory in its marketing to other political campaigners. As far as I can see it isn’t yet boasting about its role in Brexit, which included Leave.EU using Facebook to target racists until it got caught out by the Remain campaign. Continue reading “It’s Facebook wot wins votes”

Making emotional predictions

“Forecasts are always wrong,” said Robert Chote, chairman of the Office for Budget Responsibility, this week (having said similar things in the past). This is a brave line to take when your organisation produces the economic forecasts used by the government, but it is also true.

In anything that involves human behaviour, the best a forecaster can do is assess the situation in the recent past and at present, note the rates of change, then take a view on whether things will continue to change at those rates or if there are good reasons otherwise. It makes sense to say how confident you are in the prediction or provide a range of possibilities. Continue reading “Making emotional predictions”

Brexit doesn’t have to mean Techxit

The technology bosses I spoke to last week for The Register were largely dismayed by the Brexit vote. Some are personally affected, as non-British EU citizens waiting for confirmation that they can stay. Others are starting to deal with the issues; LMAX Exchange boss David Mercer emailed all his staff, including about 30 European IT employees, saying he would get them visas if necessary.

Many of the worries of technology firms, along with other high-skill sectors such as healthcare and academia, would be soothed if immigration for skilled Europeans was to remain relatively easy. Theresa May is making it clear that Britain is not keen on an EU deal that retains complete freedom of movement. But the government could achieve its goals of cutting mass immigration by allowing some industries plenty of latitude to hire across the EU – and perhaps from the likes of Australia, Canada and New Zealand – while tightening up on unskilled jobs. Continue reading “Brexit doesn’t have to mean Techxit”

Map of the month: the Brexiteers of London

London voted to stay in the EU, by 2.26m votes to 1.51m. But it didn’t do so consistently. A majority in five outer boroughs voted to leave, with Havering’s 69.66% being the 12th highest leave vote of any of the 382 areas counted. Several of capital’s remain-voting areas did so very strongly, with Lambeth (21.38%) being second only to Gibraltar and the third to eighth places in the list being taken by other inner-London boroughs.

This map shows the range of this 48 percentage point difference. A lot has been made of the divide between the capital and other parts of England and Wales, but the capital is more divided than any other region or nation despite the fact that unlike all the others it consists of a single urban area. Even the East of England, which includes some of the strongest leave-voting areas on one hand and strongly remain-voting Cambridge on the other, had only a 46 point gap. Continue reading “Map of the month: the Brexiteers of London”

Brexit: tech firms start moving investment from UK

My piece for The Register on early reactions to Brexit and Theresa May’s new government, based on interviews with 10 companies, finds that a few have already decided to move new investment away from the UK. Nothing major, and none talked about shifting existing work from Britain; but there is a lot of worry about the supply of European techies being closed off.

Adam Hale, chief executive of Fairsail, says: “If we can’t hire the right number of people, or it becomes harder to hire EU nationals, our only alternative will be to offshore some or significant amounts of development.” On a more personal level, some people who run start-ups are thinking about whether they belong elsewhere. Daniel Rovira, a London-based Swedish national who runs Itcher, is thinking about Barcelona: “You feel a little bit not wanted in a country you came to think of as your home,” he says of Britain. Continue reading “Brexit: tech firms start moving investment from UK”